Today’s article, Medical Leadership: Boost Your Worth by Jumping In, is by our active IPAT reader and Forum contributor, “Buffchic.”  So take it way, Buff…

It’s never too early to think about medical leadership.  The physician assistant profession is relatively new, and grass-roots advocacy is a great place for pre-PAs and PA students to become leaders.   Being a student leader will put you at the helm of your career, show others your value, and make admissions committees take a second look at your application.

“But I have enough to do with studying.  Is it really worth my time?”  You ask.

The Benefits of Medical Leadership

  • Learning what it is to excel as part of a team.  Physician Assistants are team players.
  • Becoming familiar with the challenges facing your profession even before you become a full-fledged PA.  Not knowing the current issues in the profession is a sign of weakness at a PA school interview.
  • Using your fresh enthusiasm to speak out and inform others about the profession.
  • Positioning yourself to make the most of your career, whether it’s about seeing the coming trends, showing others that you “go the extra mile,” or actually helping to shape the field.

 “How can I get involved in medical leadership?”

To become any kind of a leader, you need to think big, and start small.   Starting small usually means starting locally.  One of the best moves is joining your state’s physician assistant professional organization.  For pre-PAs and PA students, it’s inexpensive ($20-40 per year).  Among other things, membership will get you a subscription to your state’s PA trade magazine, a great source for news and information on the profession.

Next, spend some time thinking about what issues in the profession are most meaningful to you.  Where do you stand on the proposal to change the name from physician assistant to physician associate?  What about changing the PA from a certificate to a graduate degree?  If you’re not sure, maybe you need to read up.  You don’t need to have all the answers, you just need to start asking turning the questions.

 Medical Leadership as a PA Student

Once you are admitted to a PA program, new opportunities for medical leadership will unfold:

  • Make sure to join your PA program’s student leadership/government.  You don’t necessarily need to become an officer – though it’s great if you do – the point is to learn and contribute.  Don’t forget to add this to your resume when you graduate.
  • Volunteer to speak to science students at your college or high school about what a physician assistant is and what it takes to become one.
  • Volunteer to help at your school’s charitable fundraisers.  For example, my school, Daemen College, is conducting a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
  • Once you’ve gotten your feet wet on the local stage, it’s time to broaden your horizons.  Join the AAPA, the national professional organization for physician assistants.  Fees for student members, once again, are low.  Tying into the national level will give you a more complete view of the profession.  Within the AAPA is the SAAAPA, The Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.  Taking part will open up more medical leadership opportunities for you while you team up with like-minded students from around the nation.   SAAAPA is currently promoting a National Service Project in for student health advocacy – seize the opportunity!  SAAAPA will also hold a Student Leadership Forum at the AAPA Conference in Toronto on Monday, May 28.  It’s free and open to all.

So get out there!  Meet, greet, listen and learn.   A little networking will take you a long way.  And remember: in medical leadership, recognition and organization come with time and commitment, so be patient.  Think big and start small.

 “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Buffchic currently resides in Buffalo, NY with her husband, where she teaches clinical lab science at Canisius College.  She will be attending Daemen College’s physician assistant program this fall.  To read her Pre-PA Blog, Diary of a PA Wannabe, visit her at http://pawannabe.blogspot.com.  For even more on medical leadership, check out the related, How to be a Student Leader, on her blog.

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